By next spring, the City of Jonesville plans to have more advanced technology and equipment for filtering water and reading water meters.
Jonesville’s water plant, built in the early 1970s, was in need of repairs, according to Rick Mahoney, water and wastewater superintendent for Jonesville. A water system improvement fact sheet, put out by the City of Jonesville, notes that the original equipment will be replaced with more modern equipment to better ensure safe drinking water for residents.
The updated system, including pressure filters, will continue to help oxidize iron in the water more efficiently, Mahoney said. Funds for the projects are coming from the city, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, and Jonesville’s Local Development Finance Authority.
Jonesville City Manager Jeff Gray said these updates will renew the plant to keep running well for several more decades.
“The water treatment plant is more than 40 years old,” Gray said. “Our staff has done a very good job of operating the plant, but it’s reached its natural life span. That’s going to take place anytime you’re pumping water 24/7 through a facility.”
The process for filtering the city’s water will remain unchanged, but the plant will have new well pumps, a new aeration system, and updated communication equipment, according to Mahoney. The city, Gray said, uses ground water aquifers. They then dissolve the iron from the water before treating it with chlorine and fluoride. The water is then sent out to the businesses and residents in Jonesville.
According to the city’s fact sheet, iron in water is safe to drink, but it can “affect the appearance and taste of the water.” Meanwhile, the chlorine and fluoride are used to ensure the water is clean for drinking.
Gray said the challenge of renovating the water treatment plant is doing all the necessary work without shutting off the city’s water. This means they need to renovate the facility in stages. They aim to have the plant mostly renovated by the spring.
The city will also be updating the meter-reading process for local customers. The city’s fact sheet says in most cases, the wireless transmitter will be mounted on the outside of the building. The new meters will send signals to the city hall offices, allowing for instantaneous water usage readings, which will help the city keep an eye out for spikes in water usage, according to Gray. Mahoney said customers will also be warned if there is a spike in water usage.
Some customers have already had boxes installed, and the rest should be changed out and ready to be implemented by the winter, Gray said.
With the new meter, the plant doesn’t have to send out employees to do routine checks on-site. This will free up employees to work on other things, making the whole process more efficient, Mahoney said.
One of the benefits for customers is that they will know right away if something is wrong with their water.
Because the plant only reads meters every two months as of now, a customer might have two months of high water bills if they don’t know there’s an issue with their water usage. Now, the customer will be notified immediately.
“For the customers, there will be a feature with a red flag. So if they normally use 300 gallons, and it jumps up to 2,000, the meter will red flag it,” he said. “We’ll be able to contact the customers to let them know.”
Gray said the city got a favorable bid from HydroCorp to take care of installations for the new water meters.
“HydroCorp is handling all of it on our behalf. They are sending out notices. There are multiple ways to schedule an installation. People can call, or go to an online portal,” Gray said. “We tell people it’s typically about 30 minutes to do the meter installation, and the water shut off on the premises during that time.”
When it comes to funding these projects, Gray and Mahoney said the city had been setting aside money for this over the last several years.
As a small, rural community, Gray said Jonesville was also eligible for funds from the USDA, and they obtained a low-interest loan.
This loan, he said, will allow the city to accomplish the major renovation projects. Gray also noted that the Local Development Finance Authority’s contributions for the next few years will help offset the interest rates on the USDA loan.
“We know you can’t do a $2.5 million project on a system our size without increasing fees,” Gray said. “But we planned ahead.”